The Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), the largest and most articulate of Pakistan's religious parties, was founded in 1941 by Maulana Abul Ala Maududi as an ideological movement to promote Islamic values and practices in British India. It initially opposed the Pakistan movement, arguing that Islam was a universal religion not subject to national boundaries. It changed its position, however, once the decision was made to partition India on the basis of religion. In 1947 Maududi redefined the JI's purpose as the establishment of an Islamic state in Pakistan. In order to achieve this objective, the JI believed it was necessary to purge the community of deviant behavior and to establish a political system in which decision making would be undertaken by a few pious people well versed in the meaning of Islam. Maududi's writings also gained a wide audience. He retired as head of the party in 1972.
In order to rid the community of what it considered to be deviant behavior, the JI waged a campaign in 1953 against the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan that resulted in some 2,000 deaths, brought on martial law rule in Punjab, and led Governor General Ghulam Mohammad to dismiss the Federal Cabinet. The antiAhmadiyya movement resulted in 1974 in a bill successfully piloted through the National Assembly by then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto declaring the Ahmadiyyas a non-Muslim minority.
The JI's views on Islamization and limited political participation were opposed by those people who saw the party's platform as advocating religious dictatorship. The question of whether the JI was a political party or an organization working to subvert legitimate political processes was raised in the courts. The Supreme Court ultimately decided in favor of the JI as a lawful political organization. Prominent in political life since independence, the JI was the dominant voice for the interests of the ulama in the debates leading to the adoption of Pakistan's first constitution. The JI participated in opposition politics from 1950 to 1977.
Under party chief Mian Tufail Muhammad, the JI supported the Zia regime's Islamization program, but it clashed with him over the 1984 decision to ban student unions because this ban affected the party's student wing, the Jamiat-i-Tulaba-i-Islam (Islamic Society of Students). The Jamiat-i-Tulaba-i-Islam had become increasingly militant and had been involved in clashes with other student groups on Pakistani campuses. Aspiring student activists, supportive of religious issues, have flocked to the Jamiat-i- Tulaba as a means of having an impact on national politics. The Jamiat-i-Tulaba-i-Islam also has been a major source of new recruits for the JI; it is thought that one-third of JI leaders come from the Jamiat-i-Tulaba-i-Islam. The JI envisions a state governed by Islamic law and opposes Westernization--including capitalism, socialism, and such practices as bank interest, birth control, and relaxed social mores.
The JI's influence has been far greater than its showing at the polls suggests. In 1986, for example, two JI senators successfully piloted the controversial Shariat Bill through the Senate, although it did not become law at that time. In addition, the movement of student recruits from the Jamiat-i-Tulaba-i-Islam into the JI has created a new bloc of Islamist voters. Through the Jamiat-i-Tulaba, the JI is working to leave a permanent mark on the political orientation of the country's future leaders. However, the Pakistani electorate has been resistant to making religion a central factor in determining statecraft. In 1990 the JI was an important component of the IJI but nevertheless won only four seats. Furthermore, in the 1993 national elections, the Islamization factor was even more muted because the religious parties--spearheaded by the JI--were not aligned with the two main contenders, the PML-N and the PPP. The JI and its political umbrella group, the Pakistan Islamic Front, captured only three seats in the National Assembly.
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